Three Years...

At this same time, three years ago, I was well underway into my seven hour surgery. That surgery changed my life forever, and for the better. The hours leading up to it were terrifying and overwhelming, and I can still remember with crystal clarity how nauseous with apprehension I was.

I remember going back into the pre-op prep area of the hospital and taking deep breaths trying to remain calm. I did a pretty good job up until they started inserting the PICC line into my arm and the CVC into my neck. Apparently I started crying, though I wasn't aware of it at the time (they told me afterwards). At that point I wasn't too worried about dying, or even the risk of full paralysis. I was just dreading the months of horrible pain, and depressing immobility. I remember feeling so sad that I had chosen to put myself through yet another surgery, and had a few minutes of true self pity. 

Thankfully, those drugs they give you to help you to stay calm kicked in quickly and I don't remember anything after them inserting the line in my neck. The next thing I remember is waking up in my recovery room and being asked if I could point my toes, which I could, and feeling a HUGE sense of relief.

Fast forward to today, I am walking around (often running after my almost 2 year old son), able to live in a way I was incapable of before I entered that OR. It took me a long time to accept the fact that I had, and still have a type of disability. But once I did, it really helped me appreciate the things I am able to do, rather than be focused on all the things I can't. And I can do so much

To be freed from a constant, worsening, overwhelming pain is probably one of the greatest gifts I've ever been given, aside from my husband and son. To be able to enjoy life instead of feeling like my body was a prison, has changed my perspective forever. I feel it is a sort of privilege to have that kind of appreciation of freedom and joy at only 31 years of age.

It's amazing, and hard to describe, but I am still seeing improvement and recovery in my back at three years post-op. The body is a marvelous thing, and its ability to heal after such huge trauma astounds me. I remember a few days after I had gotten home from the hospital that I couldn't reach the faucets in the bathroom to wash my hands. My muscles were so stiff and taught after the surgery. I remember thinking that it was going to be like that forever. That I would never be able to reach them again! I laugh when I think about that now, how dismal it seemed. Here I am, three years post-op and not only can I reach sink faucets, I can wrangle a wild toddler, find things under the couch, and paint my toenails. 

To those of you reading my blog who have yet to take the plunge into scoliosis surgery, I will tell you it is the hardest thing I haven chosen to do. But I will also tell you it has had the greatest rewards. I would do it over again. This experience taught me to appreciate life, my true friends, and my loving family in a way that I don't think I would have if I had never walked through that dark valley.

three years post-op
This is the longest I've gone without a surgery, and I am so happy that I am not facing another one anytime (hopefully never!!!) soon. When I hit that four year anniversary, I am throwing a party. From having one surgery every year for four years, to have no surgery for four years, I think that's something to celebrate!

Thank you again, to all of you who brought me meals, changed my sheets, brought me movies to watch, or simply just talked with me. I remember each of you, and am so appreciative of how you helped me through. 

"There is no normal life that is free of pain. It's the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth." 
--Fred Rogers

a screw loose...

Well, so much for keeping up with this blog! Seeing as how my last post was in February, I obviously have not been finding the time to write like I had hoped. But that is mostly because I don't have too much to write about! And that's a good thing. I have been consistently healthy, strong, and living my life as though I haven't gone through so many surgeries.

However, I can say there are definite challenges to raising a toddler with a full fusion. Right now my almost 2 year old's whole goal in life is to run, climb and jump. I am constantly having to run after him, squat to grab him, or pick him up. Bath time has been my biggest challenge, as I have to be incredibly careful not to twist as I lean over the side of the tub, and even when I do that successfully, the movement still seems to irritate my residual nerve pain that runs down my leg.

All that being said though, I am learning how to compensate for the difficulties that arise from my handicap. I am aware that I just can't do all the things, the same way I did when I was a nanny before I had the surgery. I can't have a physical activity every single day, and not irritate my back, so we stay at home several days a week and do fun activities at home that are easy on my back. I can't carry Jude around for very long, so I always bring the stroller everywhere we go. I tried a little gymnastics class, but found that the movements I had to do to keep up with Jude ended up hurting my back. So I found a music class, that we both enjoy, but doesn't irritate my back.

I do think that if I didn't have the residual nerve pain from my damaged nerves, I would hardly notice my fusion at this point, almost three years post op. Although my nerve pain is drastically lessened (and really only noticeable after a LOT of specific activities, ie. squatting or bending) it is a challenge that is still a part of my life that I have to make allowances for. It is dramatically better than it was before my last surgery. I wouldn't be able to take care of my son at all with the level of pain I had before. But it still there, and I have to accommodate it.

Today is my yearly check in with my surgeon. I have two appointments a year now, to follow up on my back. At my last visit 6 months ago, they found that the nut of one of my screws had managed to come loose and is just hanging out right around the screw. My surgeon said that it wasn't anything to be worried about, since the muscles should keep it right there and never move too much more. Worst case scenario, (and I hope it never comes to this!) they could go in via a very minor surgery and remove it. This hardware malfunction is one of the risks they warn you about pre-op and honestly, I've heard of much worse cases. My surgeon said he didn't know why it happened, and even if he had an idea, he would never know the real reason it came loose, so he didn't want to give me any ideas. He did say that he didn't think it had anything to do with increased activity, and that I shouldn't be worried that I caused it in anyway. The reality is, I have hardware in my back, and it's man made. Even though it's state of the art, it's not natural and things can go wrong. My bones have fused around the actual screw, so my screw isn't actually loose. They will be x-raying me again today, and we will be able to see if the screw nut has moved at all in the last 6 months. Since I didn't even know that it had gotten loose before that x-ray six months ago, and my pain level hasn't really increased, I would assume that things are doing okay in there.

I can't believe I'm only two months away from my 3 year anniversary mark. I am still so glad that I had the surgery, and I can't imagine what my life would look like now if I hadn't gone through it. I'll do my best to check in around the 3 year mark. Please continue to send me your questions and emails, because even though I don't have much time to blog, I love helping you all in any way I can. It's a blessing to me to be able to use what I've been through to help others!

flying high....

I don't have much time these days to write, but I just had to take a few minutes to share this product with all you post-op and pre-op scoli-mommas who read my blog. I have definitely hit some more challenges as my baby boy has grown and become more active. Not being able to bend has frustrated me a bit more these last few months as he wants to climb over, through, and into just about every nook and cranny around my house. Going to the park is fun, but it does make me sad that I can't go down slides with him, or crawl through tunnels or under jungle gyms. He has several riding toys that he absolutely LOVES, but I can't push him on because they are so low which kills my back. But, I have found this awesome trike that he loves, and I can use without any pain or strain!

The Radio Flyer Kid's 4 in 1 Trike is pretty much the best thing since sliced bread for a momma like me. He loves being able to "ride" his bike, but he's safely strapped in, and I can push him without having to bend. The handles are adjustable too, so you can make adjustments for your height or comfort. It is on the pricey side, but because it has phases (ie. you can take off the straps, handles, and the wrap-around tray and cupholder) it "grows" with his development. Eventually I can take off all the other parts and it is just a regular trike that he can ride for years to come. For me it was worth the money to have an outdoor activity that he enjoys and doesn't hurt my back!

Off we go to have some fun!
I had never seen one before, and just happened to randomly come across it at Target. But when I saw it I knew it was something that would be perfect for my back, and fun for him. So, I just wanted to share it with you all, as one more thing that works for people like us! I will be sure to share any more fused-spine friendly products I come across as he grows.

For now I'm off to go enjoy the day with my itty-bitty bike rider!

a safe haven...

Last weekend we celebrated our baby boy's very first birthday! It was such a special time, with our closest friends and dear family. We are still in awe of the fact that we are parents, and that God has blessed us with such a happy, darling boy.

I wrote about this before, but I just wanted to say again how thankful we are to Jude's birthmother for giving Jude his life. She has been on my mind so much, though I can't say a day has gone by where I haven't thought of her since we took Jude home. I don't know if this month is painful for her, or if she has peace. I wish we could let her know that he is happy, healthy, and thriving. I wish we could thank her for unselfishly giving him a chance at life, a chance to be loved and cared for, even if she couldn't do that for him herself.

As his birthday approached I wanted to find a way to express our gratitude to her and for her. With an extraordinary amount of time and help from my beautiful and talented friend Jennifer Farhat, we created this simple video to thank her for not only carrying Jude for nine months inside her belly, for giving him life instead of having an abortion, but for also making sure he was in a safe place after he was born so that he could be adopted and loved by us.

There are no words to express the great debt, the great thankfulness in my heart that I have for her. I can't imagine how hard it was for her to do what she did. All I can do is raise our son in a way that would make her proud. We will encourage him to love her, because without her we wouldn't be a family.

Here is our tribute to Jude's birthmother, and our celebration of his life:

Please visit Jennifer's website here!

To learn more about Safe Haven Law, please visit this website: National Safe Haven Alliance

If you are interested in starting the adoption process, or just want to learn a little more about how you could start it, this is a great website with lots of information about it: The Adoption Journey

Finally, if you or someone you know is struggling with an unplanned pregnancy, please visit this website: Option Line for pregnancy help centers around the Nation as well as 24 hour a day help lines.
There is no such thing as an unwanted child, and giving a baby a chance to live and love is the greatest gift anyone could ever give.

Please share this video, as the more people who see it the better. We hope that it will raise awareness of the Safe Haven Law, so that no baby has to die in a dumpster ever again. We also hope to encourage others to consider adoption as a natural and beautiful way to build a family. There are so many children just like Jude who need homes today.